Boxing: Nevin eyes world No 1 spot as Irish march on
JOHN JOE NEVIN, Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan and Jason Quigley are all guaranteed at least a bronze medal at the European Championships in Belarus.
The Irish quartet all won their quarter-finals at the Palace of Sports in Minsk and head into tomorrow's last-four duels looking to upgrade to at least silver.
Nevin, who claimed silver at the London Olympics, overwhelmed Hungarian bantamweight Krisztian Nagy, with the Mullingar stylist posting an emphatic unanimous decision (30-24 30-27 30-25).
This victory ensured that Nevin has now won a medal at all the major championships – Olympics, World, European and EU – and also means that he will be No 1 when the AIBA world rankings are upgraded next month.
Nevin turns 24 tomorrow and aims to celebrate his birthday by booking his place in Saturday's 56kg final with victory over Russia's Vladimir Nikitin.
"I enjoyed it," he said. "This is my third time to fight in the European Championships, but I didn't medal at either of the other two.
"I was robbed in one and didn't perform in the other.
"You have to take it every step as it comes. One step at a time. It doesn't matter if it's an Olympic final – it's the same ring you're in, so you have to forget about everything else. It's just another fight and I treated it that way.
"I will be in the sweat suit tonight, taking down the weight and won't think about the next opponent until the day comes."
Two-time Olympic medallist Barnes is now also a dual European medallist following his split decision over Hungarian puncher Istvan Ungvari.
Two of the judges scored it 29-28 29-28 in favour of the Belfast dynamo, but the Argentinian judge marked it 30-27 for Ungarvi. Azeri light-fly Salman Alizida awaits. Alizida was beaten by Barnes' ex-Holy Family BC team-mate Ryan Burnet, who turned pro with Ricky Hatton, in the 2010 Olympic Youth final.
Barnes said: "He was fighting very negatively, I was more the aggressor. I'm here to win it. I don't care about the bronze.
"It's gold or nothing for me. I've been here before, anything but gold is failure."
Donegal middleweight Quigley made it three wins in a row with a unanimous decision over Germany's Stefan Haertel, who beat Darren O'Neill in London last year.
The 2009 and 2012 European youth and U-23 champion will now face current world champion and No 1 seed Ievgen Khytrov of Ukraine in the last-four.
"I can't describe it at the minute. It's the best achievement I have to date. I started from a young age, me and my father training in the kitchen. I owe it all back to my family," said Quigley after his 24th straight win.
"It's about who wants it the most, and I know when I get into that ring that no one wants it more than me. I think that's what won me the fight today."
London 2012 bronze medallist Conlan beat Siarhei Loban to complete a good day for Irish boxing, the Belfast flyweight hammering out an inside the distance win over the Belarusin, who was fighting in his home town.
Facing a partisan crowd, Conlan was probably told by the Irish corner to take it out of the judges' hands – and the Ulsterman did just that by stopping Loban in the second.
Tommy McCarthy bowed out, dropping a unanimous decision to Azeri heavyweight Teymur Mammadov, the 2011 European and world gold and silver medallist.